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Amid pushback, Alberta health minister defends plan to ease COVID-19 isolation, masking, testing rules –



Health Minister Tyler Shandro is defending the province’s plan to do away with most of its public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, as case numbers climb in Alberta.

“This is a plan that is based on the science and based on the data,” Shandro said during an unrelated news conference in Edmonton Thursday morning.

“We know that people will continue to have that anxiety but this was work that was done by public health based on the science, based on the data.”

Read more:
Alberta to adjust COVID-19 masking, isolation, testing rules over next month

Effective Thursday, close contacts will no longer be notified of exposure by contact tracers nor will they be legally required to isolate – although it still recommended.

The province will also end asymptomatic testing.

Further measures will be eliminated Aug. 16. People who test positive for COVID-19 will not be mandated to isolate at that time but it is still strongly recommended. Isolation hotels will also close as quarantine supports end.

Also Aug. 16, provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be required.

Effective Aug. 31, COVID-19 testing will no longer be available through assessment centres. It will be available in primary care settings including doctors’ offices or in acute care and hospital settings.

Click to play video: 'Alberta bringing COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses: Hinshaw'

Alberta bringing COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses: Hinshaw

Alberta bringing COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses: Hinshaw

While the province could not point to another jurisdiction that is taking a similar approach, Shandro maintained this is the next step as the province moves from a pandemic to an endemic response, adding that Alberta is leading the way.

“The three stages of any pandemic begins with containment, then we move to mitigation and then it moves to the endemic response where we live with a virus in our community,” Shandro said.

“Other provinces know that this is going to be the inevitable next step in Canada for all provinces.

“We did know that this is — when we do move to an endemic response more clearly and (with) some of these measures, that some folks were going to have questions — but I think that’s why we’re trying to do it in a thoughtful way, in a staged approach based on really important metrics that were developed, that were based on the science and based on the data.”

Read more:
COVID-19 is surging in Alberta, but experts say other provinces shouldn’t worry yet

Shandro said the metrics were chosen by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and the 16 people who work in her office. The health minister did not reveal what the metrics were, but pointed to 65 per cent of the eligible Alberta population being fully vaccinated as an example of one the measures that led to the further easing of restrictions.

“This isn’t the first pandemic that the world has responded to. This isn’t the first pandemic that we’ve seen in Alberta,” Shandro said.

“The folks — the 16 folks in Dr. Hinshaw’s office, as well as the MOHs (medical officers of health) throughout AHS — have an extraordinary amount of experience in public health and in response to other pandemics and when it comes to infectious disease.”

As of July 27, 75.6 per cent of eligible Albertans had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 64.3 per cent are fully immunized.

Read more:
Nenshi says lifting Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 health orders is the ‘height of insanity’

Since July 1, people who were not immunized made up 95 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases, 92 per cent of those requiring hospital care and 95 per cent of COVID-19 deaths, according to the province.

“This shows that the pressures on the health system and our concerns about protecting lives are changing and moving to an endemic response,” Shandro said.

“We know that there will continue to be some transmission but the data shows that what the vaccines are doing is making it less infectious and less deadly and that’s the good thing that allows us to move to that endemic response.”

Shandro stressed that anyone who is eligible and has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine should book an appointment.

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician based in Calgary, said with new cases doubling every five days, now is not the time to be letting up.

“Right now, when everything that I know about COVID tells me we should be ringing the alarm bells and putting in much more powerful public health restrictions, the answer from the medical officer of health is that we are going to be the first jurisdiction in the world to pretend COVID has gone away,” he said.

Vipond said there is too much unknown with COVID-19 variants. With no data about what lifting these measures will do, he added it’s hard to say what will happen. He worries with testing changes, patients will end up in his emergency room and also worries that those under 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated are being put at risk.

“I just want to do my job. I just want to love my kids. I don’t want to take this on, I don’t want to take on this government.

“I just want to be safe, right? That’s the only reason why I’ve ever fought is so that my kids are safe,” he said, getting emotional.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 resurges in BC, Alberta, prompting fears of 4th wave'

COVID-19 resurges in BC, Alberta, prompting fears of 4th wave

COVID-19 resurges in BC, Alberta, prompting fears of 4th wave

The changes were announced by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Wednesday afternoon as the province recorded 194 new cases of COVID-19 — the highest daily case count since early June.

There are now 1,334 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.

The latest reported R-value, or rate of infection, for Alberta was 1.48 for the week of July 19 to July 25. The rate was slightly higher in Calgary at 1.5 — one of the highest R-values seen in Alberta throughout the pandemic.

“COVID is not over… COVID will not be eliminated. We need to learn to live with it,” Hinshaw said Wednesday. “With the vaccine readily available, the need for the types of extraordinary restrictions we used in the past has diminished.

“We need to make sure that Alberta’s health system is able to support all patients. That is why we are making changes to bring COVID-19 measures in line with how we handle other respiratory viruses.”

There are currently 84 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 18 of those people being treated in intensive care.

With files from The Canadian Press and Emily Mertz, Global News.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Vancouver Island opens up five ICU beds for COVID-19 patients from Northern Health region – Victoria Buzz



During a COVID-19 press conference today, BC health officials announced that in order to prevent an overrun ICU in the Northern Health region, they would be opening five ICU beds on Vancouver Island and ten beds in the Lower Mainland.

Also during the conference, on whether Northern BC COVID-19 response could end up similar to what is happening in Alberta, Dr. Bonnie Henry said that BC is not at the same point as our neighbours to the east.

Henry also noted that due to BC’s current COVID-19 response, the province would not be able to handle taking on Alberta residents into their ICU care.

“We are not at a breaking point [like Alberta]. We are in a different place. But sadly, as a country, especially in BC, we cannot take people from Alberta into our [BC’s] ICU care,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

This begs the question of where Vancouver Island health services are at.

Earlier this month, Victoria Buzz reported a story about a father pleading for people to get vaccinated after his son was waiting for an ICU bed at the Royal Jubilee Hospital ICU due to what he saw was overrun with COVID-19 cases.

“He [Joel] is in a coma, and they’ve tried bringing him out. He’s still in CCU, and he’s on a ventilator. He’s just waiting for a bed in the ICU,” Roberts said.

“Before he had his episode, I felt that yes, people need to get vaccinated. But this has made that sentiment stronger. Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about everyone else.”

Victoria Buzz spoke to Island Health to get a better grasp of how Vancouver Island has been handling this fourth wave of the pandemic, and how ICUs in Victoria are holding up.

A representative for Island Health confirmed that they are seeing an increasing impact on hospitals and critical care units amidst the fourth wave.

They said that since the beginning of the pandemic, Royal Jubilee, Victoria General, and Nanaimo Regional General hospitals were the core facilities supporting COVID-19 patients.

Despite occupancy varying day-to-day, last week’s average occupancy of critical care beds was 73%, according to Island Health. In comparison, Alberta’s ICU capacity is 88%.

In order to support additional critical care needs beyond base capacity Island Health has now implemented surge critical care beds and an inpatient unit at Victoria General Hospital for non-critical care patients.

In a statement to Victoria Buzz, Island Health expressed their willingness to do what they can to support the province, but also acknowledged what British Columbians could do as well: get vaccinated.

“In addition to supporting the increasing critical care needs of Vancouver Island residents, we have supported over a dozen critical care patients from other health authorities,” the Island Health representative told Victoria Buzz.

“Our health-care teams need every eligible resident of Island Health to get vaccinated today if they haven’t already, and follow public health guidance, in order to protect our health-care system and our teams.”

As of this publication, 87% of all eligible British Columbians have been vaccinated and there are currently 540 active cases on Vancouver Island.

Of the 353 British Columbians who have been hospitalized from September 6th to September 19th due to COVID-19, 279 (79%) were unvaccinated.

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Quebec man punches nurse in face for giving wife COVID-19 vaccine – Campbell River Mirror



Police in Quebec say they are looking for a man who is alleged to have repeatedly punched a nurse in the face because he was angry she had vaccinated his wife against COVID-19.

Police say a man between the ages of 30 and 45 approached the nurse on Monday morning at a pharmacy in Sherbrooke, Que., about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.

They say he accused the nurse of vaccinating his wife against her consent and repeatedly punched the nurse before leaving the store.

Police say the nurse had to be treated in hospital for serious injuries to her face.

Quebec’s order of nurses tweeted today that the alleged assault was unacceptable and wished the nurse a full recovery.

Sherbrooke police are asking for the public’s help in finding the assailant, who they say has short dark hair, dark eyes, thick eyebrows and a tattoo resembling a cross on his hand.

—The Canadian Press

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Sask. children's hospital ICU accepts adults in COVID-19 surge plan – CTV News Saskatoon



The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is shuttling some adult intensive care patients to the province’s children’s hospital in the face of surging COVID-19 cases.

“Critical care capacity is under strain and all avenues of support need to be explored to so we can continue to care for extremely ill patients,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said in a news release.

Adult patients requiring an ICU bed will be considered for admission to Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, according to the health authority.

Patients are selected through a clinical review by the adult and pediatric critical care physicians.

Pediatric patients will continue to be prioritized for critical care at the hospital’s PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and no pediatric patients will be displaced, according to the SHA.

The change is effective immediately and is part of a larger SHA surge plan announced Sept. 17 to prepare for a growing number of COVID patients throughout the health system.

The PICU will be able to surge to 18 critical care beds, including six additional flex beds for both pediatric and selected adult patients.

Staffing plans have been developed and continue to be secured for the additional beds, much of which will come through service slowdowns.

The SHA’s normal (ICU) capacity is 79 beds. To increase ICU capacity, the SHA has also added 22 surge beds.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 78 of the 101 available ICU beds were full and two adult COVID infectious patients had been admitted to JPCH.

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